Research Area:
Landscape Change and Management

Edible Cities

Assessing urban greening strategies as systemic solutions for social challenges of urbanization. Development of a conceptual evaluation framework and experimenting with using the example of edible cities in Germany.

Cities are faced with an increasing complexity of urban development. Systemic solutions are therefore required which unfold with little implementation effort a substantial effect for environment and humans. In the wake of current social challenges such as climate change, the estrangement of the human being from nature due to urbanization and criticism of the food industry, the concept of the "edible city" is gaining in importance for urban planning and research. Edible cities use for instance public urban green spaces for the cost-free provision of food and for urban gardening for their citizens but can include as well permaculture fields and urban vegetable gardens. However, for analyzing the contribution of edible cities to the development of systemic solutions for challenges of urbanization it lacks comprehensive evaluation frameworks.

Based on the concepts of nature-based solutions, human-nature connection and place attachment this DFG-project developed an evaluation framework to assess the implementation and impact efficiency of edible cities in the context of sustainability transformation. The evaluation framework was specified and validated in selected case studies in Germany (Andernach, Haar, Munich). 

Figure: Location of the three case studies in Germany (Sartison & Artmann 2020). Please click to enlarge.
Figure with map

Interviews and surveys show that edible cities can be seen as a nature-based solution that can support social-spatial and socio-ecological transformation, in particular making cities more attractive and supporting human-nature and food connection. In terms of implementing and mainstreaming, interviews suggest that a mix of motivated bottom-up initiatives and top-down authorities is crucial for its embedding. Furthermore, frontrunner cities such as Andernach can act as a stimulus for followers to spread the idea of edible cities.

A comparison of standardized surveys between residents of the edible city of Andernach and vegetable gardeners of Munich show that benefits of urban food production are higher in the Munich case. A reason might be that most residents of the edible city Andernach are not actively involved and rarely use the food provided by the edible city. In contrast, the vegetable gardeners in Munich use their garden more intensively. To increase the benefits derived from edible cities, this project suggests civic information and participation activities such as city walking tours or garden-partnerships. Future research can assess the effectiveness of such activities.

Following research papers have been published so far: 

  • Artmann, M; Sartison, K. (2020): Edible city – a new approach for upscaling local food supply? The case of Andernach, Germany. In: Breuste, J.; Artmann, M.; Ioja, C.; Qureshi, S. (Eds.) : Making Green Cities. Concepts, challenges and practice. Cham : Springer International Publishing, 2020, pp. 129-140.
  • Artmann, M., Sartison, K., Vávra, J. (2020): The role of edible cities supporting sustainability transformation – A conceptual multi-dimensional framework tested on a case study in Germany. Journal of Cleaner Production 255, 120220. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.120220
  • Sartison, S., Artmann, M. (2020): Edible cities – an innovative nature-based solution? Impacts, drivers and constraints of implementation based on the example of Germany. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 49, 126604. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2020.126604
  • Artmann, M., Sartison, K. (2018): The role of urban agriculture as a nature-based solution: a review for developing a systemic assessment framework. In: Sustainability 10(6), 1937. doi: 10.3390/su10061937  

Follow-up project 2020-2021

In cities a mosaic of different types of urban food production (UFP) can be found (e.g., community gardens, vertical farming, community-supported agriculture). However, knowledge about advantages and disadvantages of different UFP-types is still fragmented. In particular, it lacks an understanding in which regard technical and nature-based UPA supports a sustainable food production in cities. In this follow-up project the previously developed integrated assessment framework for UFP will be refined for systematically assessing different types of UFP. The evaluation will focus on vertical farming, as a technology-based type of UFP, and community-based agriculture exemplarily representing nature-based UFP. The integrated assessment will be based on a multicriteria analyses and an Analytical Hierarchy Process including ecological, social and economic assessment dimensions and its corresponding ecosystem services. The multicriteria analyses and Analytical Hierarchy Process will be implemented through a literature review and online expert surveys (urban administration, nongovernmental organisations, practitioners) and will include German cities of different settlement densities and urbanization degrees as case studies. The follow-up project provides scientific fundamentals for systematically evaluating different types of UFP and their impact on sustainable food production in cities. By testing the framework using the examples of vertical farming and community-supported agriculture, the project also makes socially and urban planning relevant contributions by critically reflecting innovative strategies for sustainable UFP.